Fiesta Bowl Is A Guilty Patsy
The Culture of College Football Has Never Before Been Seen As So Transparently Broken, And John Junker and the Fiesta Bowl are Rightly Taking The Heat
By John Guzzon
Modern Times Magazine .com
May 17, 2011 — Surely, John Junker never saw this coming. He was the darling of college football and one of the most powerful of all of the powerbrokers.
But a funny thing happened to him on his way to the sculptor to have his likeness immortalized: he took just one step over the line between backroom dealings and illegalities and lost everything. If he truly coordinated or sanctioned the reimbursement of employee contributions to certain political candidates, he and others broke the law. Even after allegations came out, the Fiesta Bowl executive committee and its sanctioned investigator, former Attorney General Grant Woods, simply denied everything. Ten months later, Junker’s assistant agreed to cooperate and collaborate the allegations.
Soon after, he was fired.
The illegal political contributions were the impetus and the only thing "illegal" that Junker and the Fiesta Bowl perpetrated. But the real damage was how Junker, with the millions of ‘Bowl Bucks’ that he had at his disposal, eventually succumbed to greed and spent lavishly on himself and his friends. The bowl became secondary to the money and that is where the betrayal lay. After all, by its own rules, the Fiesta Bowl is supposed to give all surplus revenue to charity. So, for every dollar that Junker wasted on himself and his cronies, he took a dollar out of Arizona.
To put it in perspective, Fiesta Bowl employees have donated $38,000 to political candidates since 2000, but the cost of lobbyists, parties and gifts in that same period exceeded $4 million.
In Junker’s defense, besides the illegal campaign contributions, every other bowl in the BCS is doing the same damn thing. College football bowl games must wine, dine and cajole teams to come to their games and usually that is also commensurate with a fee of $10 to $20 million. It is a money game, plain and simple.
Those who favor ending the reign of the BCS and the myriad of bowl games around the country have also been very active in fueling public outrage at the wasteful spending and also gaining support for a playoff system.
One group, Playoff PAC, who helped maintain momentum on the Fiesta Bowl case throughout late 2009 and 2010, is also revealing the same sorts of wasteful spending at the Sugar and Orange Bowls.
“In the interest of self-preservation, the BCS is now painting this Fiesta Bowl scandal as isolated misconduct. This is wrong. Public records show the BCS’s Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl are also legally and ethically troubled. Any BCS effort to expel the Fiesta Bowl would be a hypocritical act, given the documented irregularities at these other BCS Bowls. And who’s to say we won’t find the same type of shockingly questionable behavior when the curtain is peeled back at the BCS’s Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl?” said Playoff PAC co-founder Matthew Sanderson in March.
Playoff PAC alleges:
- The Orange Bowl sponsors an annual Caribbean Cruise that the Bowl itself describes as a “complimentary getaway” for Bowl staff and college football officials that features no business meetings.
- One out of every $10 that the Sugar Bowl takes in ends up in the hands of its top three executives.
- Sugar Bowl Executive Director Paul Hoolahan received $645,386 in FY 2009, a year in which the Sugar Bowl lost money despite receiving a $1.4 million government grant. Hoolahan collected $25,000 more than the Rose Bowl’s top three executives combined.
- BCS Bowls use charitable funds to fly Bowl execs and spouses first-class, pay private club dues, and foot the bill for employees’ personal income taxes. The Orange Bowl, for example, spent 756,546 on travel in FY 2009 for its personnel.
- The Orange Bowl spent $331,938 on “parties” and “summer splash” in FY 2004, $42,281 on “golf” in FY 2004 and FY 2006, $535,764 on “gifts” in FY 2006, and $472,627 on “gifts” in FY 2008.
- The Sugar Bowl benefited its insiders by paying six-figure sums for Bowl meetings and an average of $432,723 for “Football Committee” expenses the past three years.
- The Sugar Bowl spent $201,226 on “gifts and bonuses” and $330,244 on “decorations” in FY 2008.
- The Sugar Bowl spent $710,406 in 2007 and 2008 on a mysteriously vague category called “special appropriations.”
- The Orange Bowl spends over $100,000 per year on “postage and shipping” (ten times the amount that other BCS Bowls spend annually).
- The Orange Bowl spent $1,189,005 on unspecified “entertainment” and “catering” in FY 2009, $1,017,322 on undifferentiated “event food” and “entertainment” in FY 2008, and $75,896 on “recruitment” in FY 2008.
The only BCS bowl maintaining any sort of credibility is the “Grandaddy of Them All,” The Rose. The Rose Bowl’s management committee is made up of PAC-12 and Big-12 athletic directors and league officers, including ASU athletic director Lisa Love. They also get the PAC-12 and Big-12 champions on years it does not host the championship game and has the historical reputation to not need to stoop to the corruption of the Orange, Sugar and Fiesta.
The BCS without the Rose Bowl is like baseball without the World Series.
When these non-affiliated, allegedly non-profit bowls get going, the money is surely flowing. What red blooded, wealth seeking American wouldn’t want a part of that (and keep their mouth’s shut when eating that decadent pie)?
That is what the Fiesta Bowl board needs to find out.
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